It seems like the flicker of bad news has almost become like a strobe light. There is no end to it. And when it flashes in our eyes it’s as if everything is moving slower, even though you know it’s all happening so fast it’s as if it’s more than we can take in.
Once fairly well-respected politicians on both sides of the aisle fall so quickly it’s hard to keep up with who is on the list and who is off. There are more fires, more floods, and more earthquakes than we can keep up with. And the appeals for relief funds come so rapidly it’s hard to respond to one before another has struck.
Sometimes that has me wondering what’s next. But then I run across the opening lines of Mark’s gospel, ‘’The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’’ Mark doesn’t give us the genealogy of Matthew or the story of the birth happening in a stable that Luke does. He begins with the good news of Jesus Christ.
That news came at a time when it must have seemed like there wasn’t much that could be worse. The Jewish people were occupied by a foreign power. They were constantly being reminded that the Romans believed Caesar was the divine son of god. The Jews might have had some freedom to worship, but they still had to pay their respect and obedience to Rome, and a blasphemous bow to Caesar’s divinity.
The Jewish people were ready for good news. And this was more than a breaking news story. This was news that broke in to the reality of who they were. It was God breaking into history with an announcement that God was with them.
The good news is that God chooses to be with us. God breaks into history at unexpected times, just as God breaks into history in unexpected places like a backward village in Galilee or on the banks of the Jordan River waiting to be baptized.
God breaks into our busy schedules, in the middle of all the bad news, and points us in a different direction. Look for the kingdom of heaven in the face of a child who needs help. Be a part of God’s kingdom when you offer someone something to eat. Be the good news by holding a friend’s hand so that their last hours are not alone. Make sure an elderly person has some company. Offer your protection to a young person who may be sexually abused or taken advantage of by someone involved in predation.
That’s taking the bad news that flashes in our eyes like a blinding light and saying God’s love for the world is real, it makes a difference in what we do, and it changes the world. The light of God’s love points us toward a better way. The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Lander Bethel is the minister of Grand Avenue Presbyterian in Sherman and First Presbyterian Church in Denison. He obtained a degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma before attending McCormick Theological Seminary. He lives in Sherman with his wife and three sons.